The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

How to Treat Fallen Arches: Exercises, Shoes, and Pain Relief

Posted by on Monday, March 5th, 2018

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An estimated 5 to 14% of the U.S. adult population has the clinical diagnosis of “flatfoot.” Many more Americans have some degree of arch pain or weakened tendons that do not pull together properly. Without proper arch structure, tension increases along the inflamed and overtaxed bottom of the foot, causing a condition called plantar fasciitis. Excessive pressure on the top of the foot may also lead to dorsal compression syndrome or midfoot arthritis. Most patients with fallen arches suffer from some degree of back pain, so it’s important that you know how to treat fallen arches properly. Fortunately, there are exercises, shoe choices, home remedies, and a few high-tech methods you can use to successfully deal with your fallen arches or flat feet.

Exercises For Fallen Arches

Check out this infographic from the Daily Mail as a reference for fallen arch exercises. Or, you may try one of these exercises:

  • Beach Walking: You’re blessed if you live near a beach. The soft, shifting sands aid in stretching and strengthening weakened arches. Walk slowly and deliberately, spreading your toes and making sure your feet fall in a straight line with your knees.
  • Towel Scrunching: Spread a small hand towel on the floor. Place one foot on it and crumple your toes inward to scrunch the towel, then straighten them out again.
  • Golf Ball Rolling: Sit on a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Stretch the plantar fascia ligament by rolling a golf ball back and forth under the arch of your foot for two minutes.
  • Stork Stretching: Stand on one foot, keeping the other leg folded and lifted like a stork’s stance. Rise up off the ground and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat the same motion with your other leg.
  • The Pen and Penny: Put a penny beneath the bare ball of your foot and place a pen horizontally under the middle of your arch. Flex your arch muscle to push down on the penny but not the pen. To make sure you’re doing the exercise correctly, you can also try placing a business card under your toes, which you should be able to slide out easily when you’re activating your arch.

Best Shoes For Fallen Arches

Choosing the best shoes for your feet is important for everyone but especially for individuals with fallen arches. The following shoes can effectively combat the issues you may deal with:

  • Aetrex: All Aetrex shoes feature built-in Lynco orthotics to provide better alignment and memory foam for superior comfort.
  • Birkenstocks: The comfortable contoured footbed with four weight-distributing arches is what makes Birkenstocks so famous.
  • Brooks: If you’re a runner or athlete, you’ll enjoy the width and motion control of their Beast or Ariel models during workouts.
  • Ecco: Ecco shoes come with longitudinal orthotic arch support with extra cushioning in the ball and heel for maximum comfort.
  • Kuru: This brand bills itself as “the most comfortable flat feet support shoes” with a cushioned orthotic insert for total support.
  • Soft Star: Adult and children can find minimalist footwear catering to people with flat feet in Soft Star’s selection.
  • Taos Footwear: The heels are chunky for better weight distribution, with substantial podiatrist-recommended arch support.
  • Vionic: Dressy or casual, Vionic shoes are APMA endorsed for arch support and styles that won’t slide off your feet.

Generally speaking, you want to look for shoes with a firm heel counter that does not move when you squeeze it from side to side. You want a shoe with torsional stability that doesn’t twist much. There should be some flexible bend in the toe box, and removable insoles are helpful if you end up wearing custom-fitted orthotics.

Fallen Arches Pain Relief

Treatment for fallen arches will depend on whether your pain is caused by a structural issue or irritation/plantar fasciitis. Less than 5% of fallen arch patients need advanced care. Ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) bracing is one of the main conservative, non-surgical treatments for painful fallen arches. Patients usually experience significant pain relief after one month of using AFO bracing. Patients should wear the brace daily for a minimum of four months to manage their condition conservatively. There is at least a 50% chance by the year’s end that you’ll be able to discontinue wearing a brace and remain symptom-free for the rest of your life.

You can do some pain relief treatments for fallen arches at home, while others require professional care. Options include:

  • Heating prior to therapy sessions to increase blood flow in the region.
  • Icing after therapy sessions by rolling a frozen water bottle across arches to reduce swelling.
  • Injections of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
  • Massage to break up old scar adhesions and improve circulation.
  • MLS laser using concentrated light energy to promote tissue healing and pain relief.
  • Over-the-counter medication that is non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory.
  • Physical therapy exercises that focus on the feet, guided by a certified sports medicine doctor.
  • Platelet-rich plasma injections to prompt the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
  • Resting from activities like street running, basketball, hockey, soccer, and tennis.
  • Shockwave therapy to improve circulation, blood flow, and healing of damaged tissues.

If bracing does not resolve the structural problems with the foot, surgery is another option. However, less than 2% of flatfoot patients require surgical intervention. Depending on your anatomy, it may be necessary to fuse bones together (arthrodesis), remove bone spurs (excision), cut to change the shape of the bone (osteotomy), clean out tendons (synovectomy), add tendons from other parts of the body to form an arch (tendon transfer), or graft bone to raise the arch (lateral column lengthening).

Whatever solution is right for your particular situation, the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine is here to support you in dealing with your fallen arches. From footwear recommendations to surgery, we have you covered. For more information or to book an appointment, contact us today.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.